OPTIMISM AND POSITIVE THINKING
Positive thinking has long been glorified as a keystone to the Good Life, and research into happiness has strongly reflected the veracity of this age-old view. Happy people are found, in study after study, to be extremely optimistic and tend to think positively (55, 60, 63, 117, 130, 132, 144, 201, 202, 229, 230, 235, 255, 261, 262, 286, 289). Indeed, of all the personality factors that separate happy from unhappy people, optimism is at the top of the list. More than any other quality psychologists have studied, it appears that optimism makes the biggest contribution of all the personal happiness.
In the present chapter, we shall examine the critical role positive, optimistic thinking patterns play in one’s personal happiness — and along the way, we’ll suggest some ways you might begin to develop this important happiness- characteristic. To begin with, however, let us define what we’ll be talking about…
In Chapter 8 of this Volume — when we discussed “Stop Worrying” — we introduced the whole concept of positive thought-patterns and their relationship to happiness. There we suggested that one’s happiness is directly related to the emotional tone of one’s thoughts. We presented one of the alternative definitions of happiness which stated that “happiness is a state of mind in which one’s thinking is pleasant most of the time.” From there, as you might recall, we went on to develop the “Time-Clock Theory,” the theory which sees one’s happiness in terms of the kinds of thoughts that pass through one’s mind on a daily basis. According to that theory, happiness is largely determined by how positive (as opposed to negative) one’s typical thought-patterns are. Here, again, we will see how such positive thinking appears to be so integrally tied to happiness. The basic point being:
If one can train themselves to think more positively and look at events more optimistically, one can be happier.
In this chapter, our first topic will deal with optimism; one of the most highly reported traits of happy people. Here, we shall explore the ways in which optimism leads to a happier life. There are several sides to it, and in this chapter we shall look at each of them. After that, we shall incorporate what we’ve learned about optimism in a more global view of positive thinking and its relationship to overall happiness.